Building and strengthening connections through random coffee chats
Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.
How well do you know your colleagues in your organisation? Are you aware of what they’re working on right now, and also future projects they may be starting to think about? How do you learn about new tools, techniques or other interesting ideas in your field – and identify people to collaborate with?
Often at conferences, we get extended opportunities to chat about these topics over a drink or meal together between the programmed activities. And it’s from these human, face-to-face connections that trust is built and somewhat serendipitous sharing of knowledge occurs.
But what do you do for the rest of the year in terms of developing your network and broader awareness about your field? Maybe a cup of coffee could help…
One of my experiments for this year is to revive a sporadic habit into a more regular ritual – Friday afternoon coffee chats. Typically, the way I’ve organised these is to identify people that I find interesting in some way and reach out to them to suggest a Skype call with a coffee for a half hour to an hour, depending on their availability.
They might be someone I met at a conference but didn’t get a chance to talk to in as much detail as we might have liked, or they could be someone I know from Twitter but haven’t talked to one-to-one in a while, or perhaps someone I’ve been introduced to by a colleague.
For the chat, the idea is not to have a specific ask or agenda – it’s to learn more about what they’re interested in, perhaps share some of what I’m working on, and to make a deeper connection. I might start the call with questions such as “So what are you working on right now?” or “I saw you wrote a great blog post about X the other – can you tell me a bit more about how that came about?”
- This article describes how one organisation tried this – and built out a website for setting up the chats.
- Interested in other ways to manage your professional relationships? Consider building a relationship radar.